Stuck in a Dead End Job (or Planted There?)

 

dead end jobGenesis 30

Michael Leamons in Reader’s Digest wrote the following for their “All in a Day’s Work” column:  “Although desperate to find work, I passed on a job I found on an employment website. It was for a waste water plant operator. Among the job requirements: “Must be able to swim.”(February 2000, p. 48.)

Some jobs are certainly more appealing than others.  Some may lead to future rewarding careers but others seem to keep us up to our necks in… waste water.

Last week we looked at two major decisions that Jacob made without the benefit of prayer:  marriage and career.  The first decision led him into matrimony with two jealous wives who used children in a game of one-up-man-ship for their husband’s affection.   The decision we look at this week is the decision regarding career which led Jacob into a dead end job with his scrupulous boss and father-in-law, Laban.  Lack of prayer landed him in a mess!  What can he do now?

Despite the less than ideal working conditions… chapter 30 reveals that Jacob still managed to prosper.

So the man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks and female and male servants and camels and donkeys.  (30:43)

The short of it is this: there is still grace to be found… even marking time in a dead end job.

Many years ago I worked in Cincinnati, OH at a small food distributor that has since gone out of business.   I paid the bills for this company on an antiquated computer system in an office of crazies.   One women oozed bitterness to everyone.  Another swore like a sailor.  Another made train noises while she worked because it helped her think.  (I am not making this up.)  I was making a meager living but not very happy and not at that time pursuing my calling in ministry.  I was miserable.

Sometimes you are in a bad position by others or your own missteps, but just as Jacob learned to prosper even while getting the short end of the stick… you too can discover that God hasn’t lost track of His long term plan for your life.  My stint at the food distributor was part of God’s larger plan for me.  Little by little I learned to make the most of it.  I wrote songs on my lunch hour and on the way to the mailbox… which I later recorded onto an album.  This job also gave me enough there to get my family back on track financially.  And I made a few lifelong friends through the whole process.

Stop looking at your current job situation as a life sentence in a dingy cell.  Trace the source of sunlight through the bars.  Hope exists even where you are.  Ask:  “What blessings might God be trying to get me to notice here?”   Know that God can redeem your work and that your job site could become an altar upon which to better worship Him.

Greg Laurie remarks:  “Maybe you are at such a place in your life right now. You are laboring in obscurity. You feel as if no one notices what you do. Follow the example of Joseph: Work hard. Flip every burger for the glory of God. Create every PowerPoint presentation as though Jesus Christ Himself were going to inspect it. Hammer every nail as though you were building that house for God. Type every letter as if Jesus Himself were going to read it. Play every chord with skill and precision as if Jesus were listening. Because he is. Whatever it is you are doing, do it well. Be faithful—even if there are consequences.”  (Losers and Winners, Saints and Sinners, pp. 165-166.)

Author A. W. Tozer notes:  “It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it.”   Maybe that’s what God wants to speak into your life regarding your job:  THIS is where I can bless you now.  There may be other opportunities sometime later… but for now… THIS is where you are planted.   Examine where I have put the blooms onto your branches!

You who are caught in decisions of love and vocation. In the name of God stop and look at what you have.  It may be more than you think.

What blessings are you finding around the job site these days?  Are you sharing these things with a spouse or close friend?

Blessings!

 

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Major Decision Ahead?

Tough Decisions AheadCarolyn Kempf wrote in Christian Reader magazine about her time in Bible college dating a certain fellow. During their first month of dating, they decided they should study the Bible together.  She writes:  “With my plot well set, one night I opened my Bible to (Proverbs 18:22) and read, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” I looked up, winked, and said, “Couldn’t you use a little favor from the Lord?”

My boyfriend, a Bible scholar, was quick with his reply from (Proverbs 10:10)–“He who winks the eye causes trouble.” (Carolyn Kempf, Jackson, Mo. Christian Reader, “Lite Fare.”)

These two decisions: Family and Career (outside of your decision to come to faith in Jesus) are the most important in terms of happiness, success and witness in this life.  You don’t want to mess them up.

My advice to you?   Bathe These (and all) Key Decisions in Prayer!

Jacob must have wished he did:  “Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the sons of the east. He looked, and saw a well in the field,…  10 When Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, Jacob went up and rolled the stone from the mouth of the well and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother. 11 Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted his voice and wept. 12 Jacob told Rachel that he was a relative of her father and that he was Rebekah’s son, and she ran and told her father. (29:1-2, 10-12)

Jacob has now met the love of his life. He shows off his strength for her by moving the large stone holding back the well’s water. (Much like young men flexing their muscles for potential mates today.). He kisses her on their first meeting… rushing things a bit, perhaps, for his time and culture.  But then look what happens next…  16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 And Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful of form and face. 18 Now Jacob loved Rachel, so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” 19 Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than to give her to another man; stay with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her.  (29:16-20)

After Jacob had been there a bit (he was in no hurry to return back home to Esau who wanted to kill him)… Laban in a polite way says: “If you are going to live here you need to work.”  So Laban asks: “What should I pay you?” Jacob looks over at Laban’s two daughters. (To obtain a wife is why I’m here after all… he thinks.) Jacobs says (pointing to Rachel) “I’ll take her.”

Now why did Jacob center in on the younger of Laban’s daughters?  There is a clue in their names.  Rachel’s name meant Ewe or Lamb.  Leah’s name meant “Weary” or “Cow.”  There are also clues in the text of Scripture.  Rachel was beautiful of form and face we are told.  Leah had “tender” or “weak” eyes. Some commentators try to say that this was said to mean a redeeming feature. But it seems in the text that her “weak” eyes were in contrast to Rachel’s beauty.  Perhaps she was cross-eyed or had bulging eyes. Whatever the case… this is not a flattering description.

So Jacob says: “I’ll take Rachel.” And then he rolls up his sleeves and gets to work… and the years seem to fly by. Soon the 7 years are up.

21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, for my time is completed, that I may go in to her.” 22 Laban gathered all the men of the place and made a feast. 23 Now in the evening he took his daughter Leah, and brought her to him; and Jacob went in to her. 24 Laban also gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid. 25 So it came about in the morning that, behold, it was Leah! And he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served with you? Why then have you deceived me?” 26 But Laban said, “It is not the practice in our place to marry off the younger before the firstborn.

Jacob the deceiver finally gets a taste of his own medicine. That had to sting. Why did God allow this to happen?  We could mistakenly look at this as being God’s fault instead of Jacob’s.  But actually Jacob entered into the 2 most important decisions of his life without a lick of prayer.  (Marriage to Leah and working for Laban were decisions not bathed in prayer!)

Let’s talk marriage first.  Before you Spin the Wheel in the game of life and put that little peg spouse in the seat beside you… you better do some serious praying!  We can be so sloppy in the pursuit of a mate… out of desperation or whatever.

Before you “wink the eye” and lay a trap for Mr or Mrs Right… invite God into your search.   This chapter parallels another story in the book of Genesis. In Chapter 24 Abraham is concerned about finding a wife for his son Isaac. That story follows the same pattern as this one. Only in the earlier story, Abraham sends a servant to find Isaac’s bride.

That servant went to the city’s well. There he found the future Mrs. Isaac. He heads to the girl’s home where he is met with approval from the papa. Ultimately he brings Isaac his Rebekah. There are subsequently wedding bells chiming.   There is a major difference in these two stories. In the story of the servant… the whole process was bathed in prayer. In chapter 24 Abraham invokes God when he charges his servant with the task of matchmaking. The servant prays to God to help him find the right girl as the girls of the city come out to draw water.

When he finds Rebekah he utters a prayer of thanksgiving. And when she finally agrees to go with him (for her daddy seemed reluctant) the Scripture says: “he bowed himself to the ground before the Lord.”  Move back to chapter 29. There is no indication that Jacob prayed for or thanked God for anything in his entire wife seeking experience.

What would have happened if Jacob had prayed first?

Have a major decision in your life regarding  a relationship or a job change?  Have you spent the time you need on your knees before God?  He sees down the road far better than we can.

Blessings!

The God Who Sees Me

oasisGenesis 16:1-16

“She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her:  ‘You are the God who sees me, for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.”

Hi!  It has been a while since my last post, but I have been settling into my new position at Grace Bible Church in Lucas, Ohio.  It has been a wonderful experience and I have been blessed beyond measure with the kindnesses of these people.  I finally got around to updating my website page.  I changed my banner to a picture of a goldfinch.  (They are swarming my birdfeeder right now.  Didn’t see any of these of TN.)  I also got around to changing my address and time zone from Middle Tennessee to Middle Ohio.

It is amazing after a move how many times you have to update and change your address to inform others of the change.  There may be many readers of this blog that were not even aware of the change.  One thing for sure:  My Heavenly Father was aware.  And He was there to oversee every step Janine and I took on this pilgrimage northward.

Today’s passage is from Genesis 16.  Hagar is fleeing the wrath of Sarai.  She is partially wrong… partially wronged.  (Aren’t we all at times?)  But whatever the degree of fault or innocence… she was genuinely hurting.  She stops by a spring in the desert in her effort to escape her situation and “The angel of the Lord” meets her there.  Isn’t that like the Lord to meet us at the sight of our own humiliation?  That day, she is refreshed by more than the cool water of the spring that day… but by a visitation of the Divine.  “You are the God who sees me!” she cries out!

I remember hearing the story of a pastor who was caught in the midst of turmoil in his church.  One day when he could not take the pressure and pain any longer, he went into his back yard, waved a handkerchief toward the sky and exclaimed:  “God!  Did you forget where you put me?”  Job in the midst of his affliction once asked:  “Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in?” (3:23)  Calamity and adversity can cause one to feel invisible… even to the eyes of the Almighty.

I want to take the next few blogs to draw you closer to a spring in the desert.  I sincerely hope my words will be a refreshment to your soul as you stop to search for answers and to collect yourself for the rest of your journey.  I know that my words will not change any of the  circumstances that have brought you to this place.  But I want to remind you of the God who sees.  Sometimes it is knowing you are not hidden from God that can make all the difference.

 

 

Song Origin: “Blessed Be Your Name”

Job 1:20-22

In my short list of contemporary Christian songs that I feel will one day become cherished hymns, one song has surely risen to the top.  “Blessed Be Your Name” by Matt Redman has been sung in just about every church I have visited in the past few years.   Its lyrics which invite us to praise God in the midst of whatever is going on in our lives, has truly touched the hearts of millions. 

Blessed be Your name when the sun’s shining down on me.  When the world’s “all as it should be,” blessed be Your name.  Blessed be Your name on the road marked with suffering.  Though there’s pain in the offering, blessed be Your name.

This modern hymn, written by Matt and Beth Redman, was penned during the aftermath of 911.  Matt wrote:  “It struck me how little a vocabulary we have in church worship music to respond appropriately in dark times of life.  We all face seasons of pain and unease. And in those times we need to find our voice before God. The church, and indeed the world, needs songs of lamentation.”

In an article about the song’s origin, Lindsay Terry writes:  “Many believe the Book of Job is about suffering, but Matt has a different interpretation.  ‘I think it’s really about something much grander–the sovereignty of God–of which suffering is a subcategory. At the end of chapter one it says: ‘The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised.’   Trust is a beautiful act of worship.  It says to God, ‘I believe in You–in Your unfailing goodness and greatness–no matter what season of life I find myself in.'”  (“Story Behind the Song: Blessed Be Your Name,”  Lindsay Terry, Today’s Christian, May 1, 2007.)

I think Matt’s song captures the spirit of what Job had to say.  Job’s statement reminds us be happy with what the Lord has given us… and to remain content if He decides to take it away.  I struggle with one side or the other of these two things.

When I receive things, I struggle with a desire to “Super-Size” what has been given me.  I love the words of Bob Russell:  “It is a rare person who, when his cup frequently runs over, can thank God instead of complaining about the limited size of his mug!”

I also struggle with the bitterness of those times that things are taken away from me.  Being uprooted from place to place can create a resentment if one is not careful.  Contentment is to be delighted in God, the giver and taker.

Thank you, Matt Redman, for making Job’s words even more memorable for us today.  Feelings of joy and sorrow flow freely in this work of worship that will be sung for generations to come.